First, some equivocation. I realize that we are fortunate to have a company like Plan B in our community—a company that does challenging original works in a minimalist black box theater. It is a luxury to have the city’s best thespians, directors and set designers squeezing every last ounce of production value out of that teeny black box. We take this stuff for granted.
Sixty-five minutes later, I walked out dazed and, yes, so confused.
I had had access to the script prior to last night’s viewing and based on that reading I was able to write an extremely vague preview. When I filed the story, my editor Christie Marcy, was like “you have no idea what this is about do you?” And I had to answer “Not a clue.” Even the Grand Dame of Theater Criticism, Ellen Fagg Weist, punted on her preview story in the Tribune. And, thus, in that good company, I felt secure in knowing not what to expect at all.
I knew that the two actors, Colleen Baum and Latoya Cameron, are two of Salt Lake’s finest and the set was square.
A day later. That is still what I know.
I expect the play was about the traumas and damage we all bring to our relationships with others—the broken records of our lives to date, that surface and resurface in our interpersonal conflicts. And I get that playwright Morag Shepherd is attempting the absurdist form. She is deconstructing the narrative and throwing out linear plot. I wasn’t expecting Finding Nemo here. I was, however, expecting baseline coherence.
Instead, I got a lot of words, pretty words, yes, smart words, yes, but words untethered from any context, shot at me like a word salad from a salad shooter.
It was like watching two simultaneous performances of Sybil.
Baum and Cameron, acted the shit out of these words. They stalked around Dan Evans ’s beautifully spare set underneath Jesse Portillo’s steady handed lighting, miraculously transforming into this or that character—mothers, exes, spiders (WTF was up with the spiders?) and I … I Just. Didn’t. Get. It. Something about a bullet and a drop, some sort of Terrance Malick transcendental, Tree of Life who-ha. We are all the sins of our fathers and mothers, woven into a something or other. Blech.
Maybe it was crystal clear to the rest of audience. Maybe I’m one of the subjects of the Empire who is thinking, ‘I think the Emperor is naked.’
I mean, what do you think? Please tell me but at this point I’m going to have to say, he is buck-ass naked.
This play is a lot of words, signifying nothing. It was thought provoking and I was stirred by the performances. I have certainly turned this review over and over in my mind for the last 24–36 hours. But it just never arrived at that moment where all the pieces, all the threads came together into a discernible pattern. I was longing for that moment of connection among us folks out there in the dark ringing the in-the-square production and the players. I thought to myself, as the play dwindled to its blessed end,’maybe I should see this again, maybe a second viewing will reveal the je ne sais quoi that I’m missing.’
But one hour of my life is enough.
I’d love to hear what you all think about this one. Hit the comments or shout out SLmag’s Twitter @slmag and Facebook. I could be wrong, the Emperor could be completely clothed. After all Donald Trump is president, so what do I know?
Plan B’s Not One Drop runs through April 2, 2017. Tickets and more info here.